A comments culture to strive for…


Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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379 Responses

  1. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    There is a growing tendency for people in the comment sections to take the single worst and most offensive interpretation of whatever anyone says, and to then use that interpretation as an excuse to be unnecessarily hostile, mean-spirited and off-topic.

    What passive-agressive crap! Are you really going to shirk responsibility for the bilge you post and accuse the commenters for being “mean-spirited” when they call you on it? That’s exactly what I’d expect from a so-called “independent”.Report

  2. Avatar North says:

    I blame myself. I have so little time to hang round the League I fear the commentariate is suffering from the lack of my civilizing influence. Maybe we can craft some kind of North-bot that can drop inane comments into the threads on my behalf every once in a while.Report

  3. Avatar Miss Mary says:

    Thanks. I admit, the sub-blogs seem more friendly. I’ve been reduced to only reading the OP at the main page.Report

  4. Avatar LWA (Liberal With Attitude) says:

    I have barely commented at all in the past month, so busy with work and all.
    See what happens when I neglect posting? The place goes to Hellena Handbasket.Report

  5. Avatar Major Zed says:

    What I find daunting is that comments pile up so fast. Keeping up is like showering under Niagara Falls.Report

  6. Avatar Roger says:

    Great and timely piece,

    It would seem logical that the person writing the post would monitor for bad behavior. The problem is that they are often involved in the tussle themselves, and thus are not exactly unbiased.

    Just spitballing, but could/should we have one (or more) liberals, conservatives and libertarians volunteer to monitor their own? It always works better when someone with similar views corrects us.

    Food for thought….Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Roger says:

      I find the most frustrating person on my posts to be someone who is on my ideological side of the aisle. Trouble is, I sometimes wonder if the gap between he/she and I is larger than the gap between myself and most folks on the other side. He/she sometimes makes it hard to be a liberal.Report

      • Avatar Plinko in reply to Kazzy says:

        I’ve started and deleted many, many comments that would have been pure flames, and just about all of them would have been directed to someone on “my side”. I get disproportionately frustrated by weak or bad faith argumentation when made by my ostensible allies.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Roger says:

      This is not a bad idea, Roger.Report

  7. Avatar Roger says:

    Here is another (probably dumb) idea. Could we come up with a simple process (or league norm) where certain individuals agree to refrain from commenting to each other?

    There are a couple of combinations which are extremely volatile and unproductive. Could wr establish an informal process which allows (and maybe even encourages) those individuals to refrain from commenting at all to each other without first asking the other’s permission? Without naming names, there is one individual with whom I have never had a single productive exchange with, and I am completely sure they feel the same way back.

    I would love there to be an established norm within the league for one of us or even an observer to suggest that we agree never to comment to each other.

    Just brainstorming.Report

  8. Avatar Maribou says:

    It’s an interesting conundrum.

    FWIW, as someone who doesn’t comment nearly as often on the FP as the sub-blogs:

    More than half the time I don’t comment, it’s because I don’t want to be obnoxious or aggressively misinterpret someone based on my own kneejerk reaction. Maybe another quarter of the time, it’s because I don’t know if what I have to say is important or relevant enough, and even less of the time than that, because I don’t expect that I’m likely to be able to get my point across to my intended audience, particularly in the limited amount of time I have to respond further.

    That last one sort of overlaps with the concern you are hearing from non-commenters, I suppose? But for me it’s a far-distant third. I worry sometimes that calls for increased restraint have as much of a chilling effect on non-commenters as they do a soothing effect on commenters who need to cool down.

    Only sometimes.

    Mostly, I agree with you and I find posts like this one to be a useful group nudge… but then I notice myself being extremely hesitant to respond to anything for a while, and I wonder if that was really the desired outcome.:/

    I don’t want to encourage a lot of crazy salivating YES INDEEDY BOB comments on every post/comment, or anything, and I understand why some folks are extremely hesitant to post anything unless they feel like they are actively adding to the discussion… but I often feel like that hesitation slides over into “not commenting unless one finds something to disagree with (or has a terrible pun that must be made).” It doesn’t need to, of course – but it often does. In the long run, I think that may have as much to do with polarization as anything else we do around here…Report

  9. Avatar aaron david says:

    My little trick is now that I have been hanging around here for a year or more, I know who I’m probably just going to agree with, who will challenge my opinions, etc. There are some commentators who, for a variety of reasons, I just sorta… move past what they have to say. This keeps me happy, and keeps my blood pressure down.Report

    • Avatar Michelle in reply to aaron david says:

      I tend to do this as well. Also, there are some topics I avoid. Like abortion.Report

      • Avatar Rod Engelsman in reply to Michelle says:

        Tell me about it. I got drug into that topic and ended up arguing with four separate people that all came from different directions, and none of whom I actually have severe differences with, at least on the topic at hand. Weird.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Rod Engelsman says:

          Welcome to my world.Report

        • Avatar Will H. in reply to Rod Engelsman says:

          I tend to avoid that one these days, even by tangent.
          There was a post or two recently talking about the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, etc.
          While there are relevant points about the right to privacy and the Fourth Amendment, that sort of thing isn’t likely to be discussed. It would seem as if the expansion of government into the health care industry might cause some concern for erosion of the basis for privacy of medical records from state actors. ( . . . and at a time when we were recently discussing a registry of people with “mental illness” for purposes of preventing purchase of firearms.)
          Meanwhile, the Fourth Amendment has taken some pretty hard hits.
          Invasion of privacy remains a tort available in the state courts.

          I decided against it, though I have been known to comment solely for reactions’ sake. I fault the state in this; my grant funding for more test subjects for experiments in my human observation laboratory never came through, so I have to make due with commenting on the internet for the time being. (A special thanks to all my test subjects . . . )

          . . . and there’s a good part that I don’t want to comment about even in a comment about not commenting . . .Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to BlaiseP says:

      Blaise, also completely unrelated to this, but I wonder if you’ve watched this dialogue on Mali and Africa in general:


      I promote it because it is interesting and informative, but also because Laura was a high school friend of mine.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Chris says:

        Cool. This essay is growing like Topsy. I notice she’s starting with the Mali democracy and the Tuareg/Tamashek, mine starts considerably earlier and spreads pretty far afield. Laura says the Tuareg who fought for Kaddafy didn’t have much loyalty to him, that’s kinda wrong. Though Kaddafy wasn’t raised in the desert, he affected their lifestyle — remember his fabulous tent? the Kaddafy are a tribe from the desert much akin to the Tuareg and operated along the same lines. On the north side of the desert this group of tribes is called Berber. Ancient dichotomy, goes back well before the Romans.Report

  10. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    I actually want to voice dissent from the complaints. I haven’t followed all threads of late (that’s gotten to be pretty much impossible), but I have certainly followed some that have gotten somewhat acrimonious. I haven’t seen anything that’s crossed lines I don’t want to see crossed here, and I’m a long-time participant who’s pretty strongly attached to the idea of this place being or trying to be a nearly ideal forum for discussion of ideas on the internet. People lampoon and argue others’ positions by subjecting them to logiacl extensions, but that’s not something I’d want drawn out of bounds. There are lapses in the assumption of good faith in interlocutors, and in actual acting in good faith, but this has always been the case.

    We should obviously encourage commenting in good faith and granting the good faith of our discussion partners, but ultimately I don’t believe it’s going to prove productive to try to go down the road of trying to editorially enforce that behavior. It’s too subjective. Indeed, that’s the whole question of good faith in a nutshell – is the other person being straight with you? The name for the concept in some sense only exists because there is always doubt whether it’s universally present in any given conversation at any one time.

    Ultimately, I don’t think that the value of a conversation depends on its adhering to particular rhetorical norms. A great many more ideas can be explored in the course of a conversation in which all participants who are genuinely interested in doing that are free to engage exactly as they choose, within broad limits regarding abusiveness and germaneness. It is a substantive question to any debate whether each participant is engaging with the factual record and others’ arguments in a fully honest way, and in my experience the value of many conversations here has lain precisely in participants’ efforts to parse just these questions in the course of their debates. I don’t think the environment would be be significantly improved if management were to involve itself in settling such disputes. That said, where specific moments of excess bad faith are the concerned, I’m sure I could be persuaded with references to specific exchanges that have happened that in those cases an editorial action would be appropriate – there are always specific exceptions to any general inclination. But I do find myself on the other side of the editors’ judgement here insofar as they’re expressing a new general inclination to take active steps to guide commenters toward the use of good faith in all arguments.

    I agree with Roger that ultimately the brake that we all exercise over the impact and value that this site has for each of us is in the degree of engagement we undertake with it, and the manner in which we carry out that engagement. In my view there are very few commenters here who on net decrease the value of the discussion by their participation, while at the same, with similarly few exceptions, every commenter could improve his or her contribution to some degree. Ultimately, I think what being sought here are improvements to a very good thing. It’s never inappropriate to consider ways to maximize the value of a valuable enterprise, but in such situations rarely are dramatic measures advisable. I would implore the editors to use an exceedingly light touch in carrying out this new approach.Report

    • Avatar aaron david in reply to Michael Drew says:

      Are you sure you are not a libertarian?Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Michael Drew says:

      Michael, I have a very fundamental disagreement with you. Some rhetorical forms are conducive to opening up ideas for mutual consideration and exploration, while other rhetorical forms function to close off ideas from substantive consideration. I don’t think any conversation is actually productive once it gets bogged down in mutual suspicion of bad faith.Report

      • Avatar Rod Engelsman in reply to James Hanley says:

        I don’t disagree, James. But there seem to be some topics that just naturally start out that way. For instance, discussions on guns and abortion both seem start from positions of distrust on both sides, where the pro-restriction side assumes the other side is ultimately aiming for no restrictions, while the other side assumes the pro-restrictors are aiming for a total ban. Those assumptions are hard to break out of especially when the convo starts at that point.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to James Hanley says:

        I think that much of what you see as bad faith argumentation is in truth an airing of a lot of widespread approaches to the topics we discuss (and could indeed be both). Whichever it is, when these views are aired and then met with expositions of why they are unfounded, I believe this is informative for nearly all readers, even if it is unpleasant for those who most strongly feel what is being exposed is bad faith and not just poor argumentation. Ultimately I think what you are more concerned about in voicing this objection is managing your own frustration level with arguers who you view as frequently acting in bad faith, and not the actual value of the conversation to readers. if nothing else, such exchanges contribute to richer understanding of possible impressions about what kinds of arguments are bad faith, and what are just bad, or perhaps not even bad. No one is finally right about arguments that re advanced in bad faith, or at least we can;t judge in advance who will be. The conversations that work that out are of a value that apparently you don’t apprehend, but that are nonetheless very real.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Michael Drew says:

          Ugh, thanks for interpreting me for me; I’ve never understood my motivations before.

          No, I’m thinking of people whose approach is dominated by cartoonish misrepresentations of others, along the lines of libertarians are all FYIGM or liberals are all opposed to anybody ever, anywhere, making a profit, or conservatives are all pro-rape racists. Nothing of value comes from that–they’re efforts to shut down reasoned discussion, not engage in it. I sincerely cannot see how we learn anything of value from approaches like that.

          If I said “typical lib’rultard” in response to all your comments, would you really say it contributed value? If so, it’s an area where you and I are destined to disagree.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to James Hanley says:

            I just see few enough such arguments that they don’t strike me as a pressing problem here.

            And yeah, I do think your complaints about other commenters here are primarily about your level of frustration with them and are not primarily disinterested assessments of the value of their contributions. Always have.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to James Hanley says:

            …And no, I wouldn’t say that meaningfully contributes, but I also would say that bad faith doesn’t best describe the problem with that contribution. I would say the problem with that is that it’ s a no-content personal attack. And I would say that such comments are already covered by our commenting policy. Bad faith arguments can be much more substantive than that, can represent viewpoints that are widespread, and therefore the process of demonstrating their bad faith can be very valuable. Furthermore, it can be very debatable whether an argument is or is not being made in bad faith. We should encourage good faith and we should confront bad faith with explanations of why they are in bad faith and why bad faith arguments worsen dialogue relative to good faith ones. But we should embrace that process as simply part of the commenting policy. Less-than-good-faith arguments will continue here, and how I’ve just explained is how we should deal with it. And that process will continue to constitute a not-negligible part of the overall value of the comment discussions at this site.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to James Hanley says:

            …So, I took the post as a statement that there is a problem in comments with too much argumentation being made in bad faith. I’m against significant editorial involvement in generally resolving disputes about whether arguments are being made in good faith.

            If the problem is actually not that, but that there are too many content-free personal attacks or instances of content-free name-calling, then as those are contrary to the long-established commenting policy, clearly action is warranted, and may be overdue.

            So I guess my issue is that we say correctly what the problem is, because I’d prefer there not be over-broad or over-active attempts to address it.Report

            • Avatar Chris in reply to Michael Drew says:

              I don’t think James was saying that arguments are being made in bad faith. He’s saying that there are people who always seem to assume arguments are being made in bad faith.

              I don’t think that’s really what’s going on. I just think, as I think I said somewhere else before, people who come here from elsewhere in the blogosphere are used to the shouting, in-group/out-group culture of the internet, and they don’t know any other way to behave. I’m not sure their finding one lonely outpost (there are others, but clearly they haven’t found them) in which people of different political, philosophical, and ideological stripes manage to get along for the most part is going to be enough to change their behavior. Better to just ignore them and let them slowly fade into comment obscurity. It is hard to maintain meaningless outrage if no one’s paying you any attention.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Chris says:

                Where there’s bad faith there’s almost certain to have been suspicion of bad faith. So that’s an even larger set of discussions. So I likewise hold that there is value in working through them.

                Again, if the problem is content-free namecalling, there’s no added value there, and they are contrary to stated policy, so I’m obviously not calling for people to engage those. On the other hand, if you’ve failed to find the inner bigness let them go unanswered and speak for themselves and their speakers, or at least limiting yourself point them out and calmly disengage without needing to leave feeling you’ve given some percentage of what you’ve gotten, then you’ve surrendered your right to claim not be a part of the problem. And after that, no one cares who started it. And by all means, management should take whatever steps they feel are appropriate to deal with clear violations of the stated commenting policy.

                But that’s not about good faith and bad faith, or at least it’s a small subset of that question, for which we have a policy separately set out. Good faith and bad faith in argumentation generally is a subtle, difficult-to-parse issue. It’s best worked out by interlocutors who are engaged in substantive debate that is free of unproductive name-calling and the rest. My point is that I don’t want management stepping in on those questions, and I should say that Tod’s OP is somewhat more clear that it is not his intent to do so than I initially took it to be (now reading his “I don’t really care to judge who has linked to the most accurate graph” as a more understated statement of his intent to keep a light touch on these questions than I first grasped…).Report

          • Avatar KenB in reply to James Hanley says:

            Ugh, thanks for interpreting me for me; I’ve never understood my motivations before.

            So it’s OK when you do it to others but not when others do it to you?Report

  11. Avatar Jim Heffman says:

    I’m not being a jerk. He’s just wrong. And he refuses to admit it, too.Report

  12. Avatar DRS says:

    I have some serious suggestions:

    1. Work harder at finding new topics to discuss. I don’t care if it is the 40th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, we’re hashed out abortion enough over the past few months. You want to discuss an issue when the state can intervene in a private moral decision? How about an end of life situation for elderly relatives: either in non-reversible comas, vegetative conditions (like Terri Schiavo) or simply the issues of living wills. End of life counselling is also a good topic – how much should older people and their families be expected to deal with at a vulnerable time or is that just the price to be paid for ensuring that your wishes be fulfilled as much as possible? This area is going to become a big issue in our lives and is much more likely to happen than abortion.

    2. Set topics better. Open-ended topics like “If we were compiling from scratch a new healthcare program, what would it look like?” rather than the usual “ACA – sucks or what?” would generate more positive give and take. Also, it would encourage non-Americans to post as an equal part of the team rather than just as occasional colour commentary on an American political situation.

    3. The original poster of a topic should NOT be moderating the comments. Some people simply get too attached to their views. A poster should ask for a volunteer moderator before he/she posts a topic.

    4. Put a cap on numbers of comments. After about 300, the thread is unreadable and an unlimited comments policy simply allows commentors to post all their jokes and witticisms. If you’ve got a finite number of comments, you’ll use them better.Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to DRS says:

      There’s a trivially obvious solution to over-commenting and thread-jacking: periodically create an Open Thread post. Lets off steam.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to BlaiseP says:

        It’s funny, but every time someone declares an open bread here no one takes it.

        I would think of all the places we’d have folks jump in with whatever. Don’t know why we don’t.Report

        • Avatar Plinko in reply to Tod Kelly says:

          I would guess the Jukebox conceit isn’t lending itself to people using the Open Thread that way.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Tod Kelly says:

          You have a point there, Tod. Here’s the deal, from where I sit. BlaiseP’s Corollary to Godwin’s:

          “As an LoOG discussion grows longer, the probability of a member of the set [Force ‘n Fraud, Free Market Shall Solve Our Every Problem, Non-Coercion ] appearing in a comment thread approaches 1 as varies the level of indention.”

          I’m sick of every single debate around here devolving into the same tiresome iteration of Trivial Libertarianism. It’s like a gaggle of Buddhist monks clanging their cymbals and reciting some sutra in Pali. All fine and good for the faithful, mind you. I came over here in search of Classical Liberals, it’s not like I didn’t know what I was getting into. But Jeebus, Dennis set about writing his post about being a gay black Republican and nothing doing but what it didn’t turn, once again, into more of the same.

          The Japanese say Uma no mimi ni nembutsu, chanting Namu Amida Butsu to a horse. According to Buddhism, if you pray to the Amida Buddha, you will go to paradise and every sentient being will end up there eventually. Maybe I’m that horse, maybe I’m not going to be enlightened just yet. But you will not convince me in your endless repetition of same.Report

          • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to BlaiseP says:

            Your corollary made me laugh out loud, BP.

            When we do the revamp, we should have page dedicated to these Laws, Rules and Corollaries that we can periodically add to as they are created.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley in reply to BlaiseP says:

            Holy Cow. This is the real-life case study of Jim Heffman’s joke above.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to James Hanley says:

              I thought we had an agreement. Tell you what, Hanley, why don’t I just crank up Grease Monkey and write you a virtual Libertarian prayer wheel in JavaScript? That way, when the urge arises, the script will randomly consult one of your previous thousands of repetitive posts, being sure to walk up the DOM tree and grab the name of the author of the comment you’re responding to, parsing through the comment-body-nnnn for the topic sentence, prepend a “No” to it and postpend the looked-up text, thus saving you the trouble of actually responding to the commenter.

              A gift, from me to you. Think of all the time it will save you. You will have to press Submit, of course.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Matthew 7:3.

                Self-awareness is a gift from the Creator. Such a shame to blindly toss it aside.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to James Hanley says:

                1 Samuel 15:14Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to BlaiseP says:

                John 8:7.Report

              • Maybe battling bible verses in the comments on a post on civility isn’t the best way to hash this out. I, for one, would be quite appreciative if you could both let this thread fizzle out.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to James Hanley says:

                Your problem, Hanley, is that you lack a stone to cast. It’s not that Libertarians don’t have anything to say or that their viewpoints are useful. But there’s a limit to how many times you can tell the same joke before someone wearily rolls their eyes to heaven and says “Not this again!”Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

                Do you have a verse to back that up? 😉Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

                That was directed at Jonathan, by the way.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to James Hanley says:

                Do I have a point or not, Jonathan? Isn’t it the case that damned near every discussion around here devolves eventually into some entropic force tensor equation culminating in definitional squabbles as outlined above, featuring endless rehashes along the same Libertarian/Liberal lines?

                Now there is one such scalar-tensor, at the boundaries of a black hole, where a particle takes literally forever to enter because time stops working right there. The trench warfare hasn’t produced a productive discussion since I got here. It’s sucking the life out of this place. It’s produced no end of bad feelings. And it’s getting worse.

                I don’t make any claim to being Right in this discussion. I’d very much like to change my mind, or have it changed, or something of that sort. And I’ll be the first to admit I haven’t been entirely respectful and often abusive. But I’m sick of the same definitional fights, over and over and over. It’s worse than criminal, it’s boring.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to James Hanley says:

                Ecclesiastes 9:11Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

                Blaise, I absolutely do think you have a point about those discussion occurring too frequently, and I think few people would disagree.

                But pinning blame on libertarians is not only false, in the words with which you did so you committed the very sin of triviality and tiresome repetition of which you accused others.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to James Hanley says:

                For crissakes, I’m not blaming anyone. It takes two to tangle/tango. If anyone’s to blame, I’m to blame.

                James, I’m ready to leave League entirely, like the old euphemism when you’re having to sack someone, it’s just not working out. And maybe it’s like that old break-up line, “It’s not you, it’s me” It’s like a whole lot of euphemisms and handy, facile lines nobody means and everyone says and the people who hear them understand what’s meant and not meant. I’m tired of the same fight appearing, over and over. The one constant in all this resolves to a lack of respect and it manifests in these endless repetitions of the same old slogans as surely as it does with insults. It insults people’s intelligence.Report

              • Avatar Plinko in reply to James Hanley says:

                Maybe sometimes, someone can be wrong on the Internet and we can just trust that folks can see it well enough on their own without needing to re-litigate first principles every thread.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

                For crissakes, I’m not blaming anyone.

                “As an LoOG discussion grows longer, the probability of a member of the set [Force ‘n Fraud, Free Market Shall Solve Our Every Problem, Non-Coercion ] appearing in a comment thread approaches 1 as varies the level of indention.”

                Leave. Or maybe I will. Truth is you and a few others have made this place seem so unwelcoming to anyone who makes a libertarian economic argument that I’ve also been considering it. But for god’s sake spare us the blame of libertarians when you’re equally guilty, and spare us the pretense that you didn’t in fact blame libertarians.

                You started it here, can’t you see that. The exact type of thread you’re whining about you started. Perhaps if you’d STFU with your non-stop attacks on libertarianism, you could single-handedly diminish the problem noticeably and actually walk the higher ground you so want to hold.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

                Look, I’m not saying I’m blameless. I know very well I’m as guilty as anyone else for dragging these ugly threads out. But damned if I’m going to jump into the middle of a wholly irrelevant thread and say, “those shallow liberals pollute every thread with their pointless criticisms; they’re like monkeys constantly flinging their own poo.”

                That approach doesn’t simply point out the problem, it becomes a part of the problem.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to James Hanley says:

                For everyone’s sanity I wonder if Blaise, MA, and Mike S on the left and James and I on the libertarian side should all agree to a non dialogue agreement. We won’t comment on what the other side writes. Not sure where Wardsmith and Brandon fall out.

                I’ve never seen anything productive come out of these combos.

                Just brainstorming again.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to James Hanley says:

                As far as I know, James and I have no problem having a civil conversation.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to James Hanley says:

                (Unless that’s really been Johanna, of course.)Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to James Hanley says:

                We won’t comment on what the other side writes.

                License to write patent nonsense without fear of it being called such? No sale.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to James Hanley says:

                Shit, Roger, I can’t get Hanley to stay away from me even on his word. Wouldn’t nobody be laughing at BlaiseP’s Corollary to Godwin’s if there wasn’t a note of truth to it and you goddamn well know it.

                I don’t have any problem with Libertarians. There’s plenty of intelligent things to say on this subject. There’s a difference between Jason and Cato’s take on Libertarian thought and the dumbass bullhorn street-preachery hectoring and blathering I’m seeing around here. It’s the difference between chicken dumplings and chicken shit.

                And a little advice for you, Roger. Seconds out.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to James Hanley says:

                M.A., when I was younger, I was in permanent outrage mode too. It was exhausting. If I remember correctly, you’re older than I am now, so I can’t imagine it’s all that fun for you.

                If I were making a suggestion, it would be to try harder to enjoy yourself, and not assume that everyone who disagree you is evil and out to offend you specifically with their evil, evil ideas. Well, except Schilling. He is out to offend you with his evil, evil ideas.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

                and the dumbass bullhorn street-preachery hectoring and blathering I’m seeing around here. It’s the difference between chicken dumplings and chicken shit

                And there’s the problem. I’d be happy to not engage with Blaise, but what he seems to want is the freedom to engage in this kind of hit-and-run insult without anybody calling him on it.

                The problem, according to him, is “trivial libertarians,” “dumbass bullhorn street-preacher hectoring” “chicken shit.” The problem, of course, is not in his having resorted to phrases like “dumbass street preacher…bullshit.” The man’s entirely innocent.

                Well, that’s your Blaise, folks. Cherish him. I give.Report

              • Avatar KenB in reply to James Hanley says:

                M.A., J.H.: what benefits do you see resulting from “calling people on it”, and what negative consequences from not doing so? Certainly your responding doesn’t stop the other party from making the comments you don’t like, and probably anyone who’s persuaded by their comments isn’t going to be moved by yours.

                To me it seems like a dollar auction — with each comment you act as if you’ll get the last word, but then the opponent just fires back. Eventually someone gets tired of it, but really neither of you has won.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to James Hanley says:

                We won’t comment on what the other side writes.

                Since when are Blaise, M.A., and I on the same “side”?Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to James Hanley says:

                Tod: ‘If you are being treated in an uncivil manner, please let us know.”

                Blaise: “Shit, Roger…. you goddamn well know it…. the dumbass bullhorn street-preachery hectoring and blathering I’m seeing around here. It’s the difference between chicken dumplings and chicken shit.”

                Um, I consider this uncivil.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

                @Mike S,

                Agreed. May I encourage you to extend to Roger the graciousness you extend to me?Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to James Hanley says:


                Go back to your post about the 2008 meltdown. Look at the productive conversation you and I were having about its causes and possible remedies. Now see where Roger entered and asserted blandly that he and you were on one side and me on the other, and the two would always talk past each other. And in this thread I just got put at the kids’ table with Blaise and M.A [1]. See why I got testy?

                1. Not to say they deserve it either.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to James Hanley says:

                Please feel free to go back to the discussion. Here is how it played out:

                I suggested an alternative paradigm to the tired, age-old progressive/libertarian divide.  Rather than no regulation/ regulation I suggested evaluating the debate as one of activist vs impartial regulation.  Through the course of the next three days or so, this subthread generated a massive number of discussions, including a comment of approval and example by the original drafter of the OP.  In the course of that discussion I expanded upon my paradigm with a sports analogy, repeated clariications, and an elaborate example from a heavily regulated topic on which I am a subject matter expert (insurance).

                You accused me of “spewing patronizing bullshit.” I asked you to explain where you disagree. You then mockingly changed your insult to “useless platitudes.”

                I asked you to step up your professionalism and again asked where you disagree. You then repeatedly accused me of saying nothing, though by this time I had probably written about a thousand words elaborating the alternative paradigm and it’s value to the tired debate. You then ended by saying my attitude offends you.

                I will say, in your defense, that your comment style is substantially above the levels of the other two. You just seem to be unable to chat with me without resorting to mean snarks. As you wrote, something about my attitude offends you and your natural response is to try to verbally assault me back. As such, I believe the League would be a healthier place if you and I kept our interactions to a minimum.

                Feel free to disagree.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to James Hanley says:

                You just seem to be unable to chat with me without resorting to mean snarks.

                Roger, old chum, that’s one view of how things went down. Is there another? If there were, would that change your understanding of the dynamic in that thread?

                Mike made many very detailed proposals about how to rectify the problems that gave rise to the ’08 financial crisis (some of which Hanley agreed with). You neither agreed nor disagreed with any of them, instead opting to criticize liberals (“progressives”) for holding an ideological view that you fundamentally reject. When commenters (mostly liberals, Mike S, clawback, me, others) asked you to clarify what you meant by this ideological difference, you offered analogies to football and activist refs. When people criticized those analogies and other language as being empty and vacuous, you took that – circularly, it seems to me – as evidence that your theory was correct rather than a call for clarification. Liberals, you concluded from those exchanges, are demonstrating all the things you thought they were! And then you proceeded to wonder aloud why liberals refrained from answering your challenge to them.

                It begged all the questions, was insulting from an intellectual pov, and didn’t merit a response beyond a request for clarification regarding what specifically you were referring to. We all politely (at first) asked for those clarifications. Repeatedly, btw. And it was only after those requests were met with only more platitudes that people became short with you.

                That’s how I see it, anyway.

                My initial contribution to that thread, which drew some derision and pretty uncivil language from you (do you remember reducing my comments to cheerleading?) was to agree with Mike’s summary of the linked papers which I thought brought out interesting analyses as well as solutions to the problems underlying the financial crisis. You, for some reason, rejected those proposals out of hand, even tho they were favorably linked by a libertarian on this site.

                It’s all quite puzzling, actually. And slightly irritating, truth be told.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:


                I really do have to agree with Roger here. The sports analogy was arguably not phrased as clearly as it could have been, but there wasn’t a real discussion of its strength/weakness (applicability/non-applicability) as an analogy, there was a quick rejection–by both you and another commenter, iirc–essentially claiming that it’s ridiculous to use sports analogies. And there is a serious, and I think valuable, idea in the activist vs. non-activist dichotomy that unfortunately did not get discussed because the anti-Roger crowd set to mocking it and carefully befuddling the argument right away, instead of making any real effort to understand it at all.

                I did note your tone, and at the time was wondering if you would have been so quick to flame if I had been the one who made the argument (which I very well could have, since I perfectly understood what Roger was saying, and have made the argument myself in the past).Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to James Hanley says:

                I’ll have to disagree, James. Politely, if that’s possible anymore. Roger’s view of progressives begs all the questions in his favor. He’s making an ideological argument (and if I weren’t so lazy I’d go back through the various threads to compile evidence of exactly what the ideology he attributes to liberals actually is) and as such, it’s impossible to refute from within his own ideological framework.

                If there’s a case to be made for the view your endorsing here it’s going to empirically based (not ideologically) and that requires going to specific policy proposals. That’s why I found Roger’s efforts in that thread to be so puzzling: Mike inparticular, but others as well (clawback) made some proposals who’s content was never addressed by Roger. Instead, he skipped right past the actual proposals to a critique of “progressive ideology” underlying them.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to James Hanley says:


                This is my comment which started the sub thread, which led to Mike’s first snark, which led to his unprofessional dismissal and I quote “Bug Fucking yawn.”

                begin quote:

                “Stillwater and Mike,

                I believe we are often talking past each other. Zed and James and the Simon Johnson link are all stressing an important point (as does Taleb elsewhere)

                Finance is one of the most regulated industries in the world. We ( or at least I) am not recommending no regulation. What we are saying is that activist, revolving door, crony capitalist regulation is not the solution. That is what we have now, and we all agree it is fished up, right? We’ve created a Rube Goldberg device which as even Mike mentions privatizes gains and socialized risks.

                When we hear you demand more regulation, we just roll our eyes knowing this will just lead to more crony capitalism with bigger revolving doors and larger exemptions for insiders. Every additional page of regulation is just one more sweetheart deal for the well connected CEO, one more vote for the slimy politician, and one more instance of rent seeking on the public’s dime.

                When you hear us cry out against regulation, you just roll your eyes and assume we want the corporations to do whatever the hell they want regardless of who they harm.

                That is not what we (or I ) want. We want a set of clear and consistent rules which are minimally intrusive, non activist in nature, non command and control, which, as James, Zed and the link all stress, ensures that risks and rewards are properly internalized.

                I am all for a consistent set of rules that say financial firms need to not lie, cheat, steal, harm, discriminate based upon race, and that they must be adequately capitalized or reserved to pay their debts. I also realize that complex industries require more than a simple set of Queensbury rules.

                In summary, I would say we believe that the problem is that these industries are regulated wrong. And more wrong isn’t gonna make it any better, indeed it will eventually make it worse. We hear you guys pleading for more wrong, and you hear us as pleading for none at all.

                “People are pretty simple: they do what they are rewarded for doing. If they get multimillion-dollar bonuses by taking huge risks with other people’s money—as they still do—then they will continue to take those huge risks, and not give it another thought.”

                End quote.

                You were cheerleading Mike the whole time, even going so far as to compliment him for the comment about “spewing patronizing bullshit.” In my opinion, promoting and encouraging uncivil behavior is as bad as doing it. You clearly encouraged him on, and later tagged in and continued his uncivil attack.

                A few other points. 1) Where exactly was I question begging? You keep repeating this, but never explain it. Please help me understand.

                2) Please don’t pretend “nationalizing industry” was a serious retort to my suggestion that libertarians prefer less activist regulation. It really wasn’t, and you and Mike know it. It would be the equivalent of me saying “we should line up and shoot all regulators, how is that for an example of good regulation?”Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to James Hanley says:

                Yeah, James, if you had completely dismissed everything I’d said, I’d have been pissed with you too.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to James Hanley says:

                Roger, there’s nothing I can do to help you understand my own views at this point, since your mind is made up. It seems to me what you want help with is figuring out how I continue to not agree with your views. That I can’t do for you my friend.

                Regarding all the other stuff, I’ll just say, I remember it differently.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

                Roger’s view of progressives begs all the questions in his favor.

                Good thing nobody else here ever does anything like that. As has been made quite clear on this page, all the problems in discussion are the fault of those damned libertarians.

                Sure, we all do that to some degree, you as well as me. But look again at Roger’s comment, that he just reposted. When a comment says things like, “I believe we are often talking past each other,” ” “We ( or at least I) am not recommending no regulation,” “We’ve created a Rube Goldberg device which as even Mike mentions privatizes gains and socialized risks,” “When we hear you demand more regulation, we just roll our eyes…When you hear us cry out against regulation, you just roll your eyes…,” then “it’s begging all the questions in his favor” really isn’t a fair or generous interpretation.

                It was an invitation to discussion that was rudely rejected and dismissed without real consideration.

                Hell, there’s a lot more “we” in Roger’s article than just about any liberals have allowed on this page about a lagging comments culture. If we’re the problem, and you all are so innocent and noble, why not just ask us to leave? Sounds like that would magically fix the comment culture problem.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to James Hanley says:

                You were cheerleading Mike the whole time, even going so far as to compliment him for the comment about “spewing patronizing bullshit.”

                Ah, there’s part of the problem. If you count indents more carefully, you’ll see that Still was complimenting my comment that began:

                The Simon Johnson piece says that the failed banks should have been nationalized rather then bailed out. No argument here. Cohan is saying that Wall Street types should be gambling with their own money, not other people’s (as partnerships, not corporations.)

                and then went on from there to propose new rules to implement Cohan and Johnson’s suggestions. This should have been clear from the fact that Still goes on to say ” That’s pretty much how I understood Cohen’s proposal as well.”Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:


                You say Roger completely dismissed everything you said, and he says you completely dismissed everything he said. Motes and logs. Maybe both of you can pause to think that neither of you is wholly innocent.

                But this “it’s all the libertarian’s fault” business is getting tiresome enough that I’m just about ready to walk away for good. Increasingly it seems libertarians aren’t really welcome here (unless we have the saving grace of being funny, or willing to accede to the point of being adopted as “not really a true libertarian”). You and I get along fine, but I still feel like you’re demonstrating that approach.

                That itself may be an unfair interpretation, and if so, I beg your forgiveness. But I really do feel as though this place has become so substantially liberal that liberal privilege dominates, and the same behavior that gets repeatedly damned when its libertarians doing it gets a pass when liberals do it.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to James Hanley says:

                James, this place would be worse off without you, even if you are a street-preachin’ libertarian (seriously, I’ve never seen a libertarian preach on the streets, does that happen? and if so, are they any more interesting than the people who usually preach on the streets?).Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to James Hanley says:

                It is of course fair game for you guys to feel offended by my comments. I can’t dispute this. But that is not the question. The question is whether my initial comments abided by the rules of civil discourse, compared to the following responses…

                “bug fucking yawn.” (I will call this one borderline. Heck, even I enjoyed it.)

                “spewing patronizing bullshit.” ( I call this one a clear violation, especially considering the subsequent discussion on empty platitudes and such).

                But all this is just airing old laundry… the sole point is that unless we can avoid constantly diving into uncivil discourse, that we probably should avoid commenting to each other. I am certainly willing to give it another try…Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to James Hanley says:

                James, you just can’t help yourself, can you? I’m willing to merely disagree with Roger about this. He gets his view, I get mine. It’s all good. We disagree. But now you want to play.

                Roger reduced my entire efforts in that thread to merely cheerleading Mike Schilling and piling on when things turned nasty.

                For some reason, I remember it differently. I seem to remember comments I made in that thread justifying why I might be remembering it differently.

                But, youknow, whatever.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to James Hanley says:

                Thanks for that Mike S. (And I want to second everything else you’ve written on this thread!! Gooooo-TEAM!!)Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to James Hanley says:

                I suggest we kiss and make up and try our best going forward.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to James Hanley says:

                James, step back. Stop thinking of yourself as a member of a team (which I find silly, honestly.) In the comments to your post, you and I weren’t talking past each other. We each made points that the other understood, some of which we agreed on and some of which we didn’t. Zed recommended the Johnson piece (which is, by the way, in favor of nationalizing failed banks temporarily as opposed to bailing them out, not about nationalizing the banking industry) and the Cohan piece (which talks about perverse incentives in the finance sector), and we all talked about them. All good stuff.

                Then Roger came in, insisting that the problem was that “your team” and “my team” talk past each other. But we weren’t talking past each other! We were communicating just fine, as intelligent people with different viewpoints finding a lot of common understanding. The very last thing anyone needed at that moment was drowning out a really productive discussion with this “team” crap, saying that our “teams” don’t listen to each other, when we were doing just that.

                And now the proposed solution is for our “teams” not even to comment on each other. It’s utter nonsense. You know, Blaise and I have had some big dust-ups. Are we on different “teams” when it comes to linguistics? I often just skip what M.A. says, because it’s so over-emotional. Does that out us on the same “team” or different “teams”? Are Jaybird and I on different “teams” because he likes wrestling and I think it’s juvenile, or New Dealer and I because I like Harry Potter and he thinks that’s juvenile? The very, very last thing this place needs is an official concept of “team”.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to James Hanley says:

                Firm, manly handshake. OK, and a hug, but with lots of back-slapping.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

                James, you just can’t help yourself, can you? I

                Wow, you’re just wholly innocent, aren’t you?

                And that’s what’s got me on the verge of leaving. Not you specifically, but what you represent in this thread–the League’s liberal privilege that leaves even decent people like you arguing that it’s the libertarians’ fault, and unwilling to accept that you might have been part of the problem.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to James Hanley says:


                I was born on Team Jacob, and I’ll die on Team Jacob.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

                And now there’s Mike. It’s all Roger’s fault and none of my own!

                So in this thread we have had Blaise, M.A., Stillwater, and Mike S.–liberals all, even if Mike seems not to want to be associated with all of that group–arguing in various ways that it’s all the libertarian’s fault, and not one of them bears any responsibility at all.

                (Chris. If I manage to break my addiction to this place (a big if), you do know where to find me, right?)Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to James Hanley says:


                I lack the strength to read all the comments. What is the thing that you think is not the fault of “the libertarians”?

                I do think generalizations involving locutions like “the Muslims”, “blacks”, “the liberals”, or “libertarians” often conceal and distort the truth more than reveal it.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to James Hanley says:

                Screw you. Maybe I’m being a self-righteous asshole, but I’m not being a self-righteous liberal asshole.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to James Hanley says:

                James, now’s not the time for advice, but I think you should take Mike’s comment about teams to heart. When you write

                the League’s liberal privilege that leaves even decent people like you arguing that it’s the libertarians’ fault

                you’re really reaching. My problem in that thread wasn’t with “the libertarian” or any libertarian. It was with Roger. For all the reasons I’ve already outlined.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

                Shazbot, But I do think it’s the fault of the libertarians. I think it’s my fault. I just don’t think it’s only our fault. I’d like to see all of us who are at fault step up and take responsibility, but too many here are too insistent that their hands are clean.

                What is “it”? What the OP is bemoaning.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to James Hanley says:

                I’ve got to go do some server architecture. Can y’all solve this while I’m gone?Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to James Hanley says:

                James, I do know where to find you. I’m at your blog pretty regularly, but generally as a lurker.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:


                Mike, you’re correct that we get along well now, but we didn’t always. Some of our early interactions were much more tense, and there was an element of instant rejectionism in your responses. I was inclined to dismiss you except I enjoyed your one-liners so much. So I began focusing on those, and most of our interactions ended up being humorus repartee rather than serious talk. And now we see each other as humans. And now either you don’t do the instant rejectionism bit on me, or I don’t interpret our interactions that way.

                But you don’t have that with Roger. So it’s my impression that you don’t see him as an individual the way you see me, but that you see him as a libertarian.

                Look, you can bash me for saying there’s a liberal/libertarian thing here, but put yourself in the libertarian’s shoes and look at this thread. It begins with a liberal saying that the problem is “trivial libertarians.” Then we get a liberal saying he can’t ignore libertarian comments because they’re all “patent nonsense.” Then we get two liberals putting all blame on a libertarian for a thread that went south and absolving themselves of all blame (And to be fair, we have that libertarian putting all or most of the blame on the two liberals). Then we get another liberal putting all blame on me in this thread and absolving himself of all blame.

                Nowhere do I see libertarians pointing to other libertarians as part of the problem, or liberals pointing to other liberals as part of the problem. So while I could be wrong, it does look like a liberal/libertarian thing to me.

                And there are a lot more liberals here than libertarians. So if this is the route things are going to go–even if it’s not really about liberals vs. libertarians, but just about those we argue with because we disagree with them–the liberals are going to win through strength of numbers.

                Libertarians are officially welcome here, but it’s not really a welcoming place for them. I can’t quite parse whether it’s gotten less welcoming or whether I’ve just gotten worn down by its unwelcoming aspect. But it’s there (and were the proportions reversed, or course the place would be more welcoming to libertarians and less so to liberals; it’s a natural function of numbers and political debate). And the only way for it to change is for us all–each of us–to take Tod’s OP plea seriously.

                But we won’t. This whole thread is replete with people obstinately refusing to think that the OP refers to them in any way. In the comments to his OP about Scalia, Sam W. openly mocks the idea OP’s goal as an absurd artifice.

                Your response is angry denial. Doubtless part of the reason is my poor skills at writing about such things. I’m sorry. Please understand that I’m not angry, and I’m not saying screw you. But I’m searching for a reason–other than a real kind of addiction to the place–why I should bother staying. All the signs I see suggest libertarians are still going to be made to feel unwelcome, and the libertarians aren’t going to help their own cause by behaving any better than those who make them feel unwelcome.

                Contra Chris, I don’t think the League would be any less without me. It’s probably a better place because there would be fewer of my type of arguments. It tilts marginally more liberal, which probably suits the majority–it becomes marginally more comfortable even for those who might actually miss me.

                I don’t know if I’ll leave. It’s not hyperbole to say I’m kind of addicted. But it does have a liberal privilege, and you personally do play a part in making me feel libertarians are unwelcome, even though I know that you personally welcome me. (“I don’t like libertarians much, but Hanley’s not too bad.)

                Sorry not to wrap this one up with either a good joke or a good straight line for you. It’s a bit dispiriting to say, “yeah, I see the privilege” and have all the privilege folk deny there is any. As a white guy, I’m not put in that position often enough to get used to it.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to James Hanley says:

                More seriously, though, since most, not all, but most of the team-first folks have left (some voluntarily, some less so), it seems like when we’re talking about people here, and the ideas they express, we could do so without reference to teams. I mean, Tod’s posts on Republicans are going to be on Republicans because that’s their subject, which is fine, but if Mike D. or Mike T. then come into the thread and express an idea (say, school vouchers), it seems utterly pointless to say, “Republicans/conservatives always think X,” or some variant thereof, because whichever of the Mike’s you’re replying to has told you what they think, and bringing the rest of a large and diverse group into the discussion can do nothing better than muddy the waters, and they can do much worse.

                The same goes for liberals, the left, libertarians, and so on. Just talk to the people, not the groups to which they belong. Trying to apply labels to them begets essentialist thinking (trust me, there’s research on this), and essentialist thinking breads misconceptions, and then things start to spiral out of control.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to James Hanley says:

                I would say Stillwater, Mike, and you have clean hands in the question of who caused the lack of charitable (reasonably charitable, nobody is perfect) interpretation and civility. Imam sure you all have sometimes been uncharitable or uncivil on occasion, but not regularly on this blaig.

                M.A., Roger, Blaise (all of whom I like and are smart and say interesting things regularly) are uncharitable fairly regulalrly and use rhetorical devices to try to make points in some ill advised attempt to be persuasive. (Quick tip: blog posts never persuade anyone of anything.) The are lots of others too with the same problem, but they are less regulat posters and (frank
                y) less interesting than the three I just named.

                The problem is that some people want this place to be like an academic symposium with lots of questions and citations and others want it to be a more run of the mill political blog where teams battle to be persuasive. Sadly, it is something in between, which is a fun diversion but (and I don’t mean to be rude, but must say it) pretty much worthless in terms of shedding light or learning or creating real debate,Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to James Hanley says:


                I’d also say E.D. Kain’s blog, with Kuznicki on the masthead, and you being the most common commenter (and you are regularly and rightly commented) is a pretty welcoming place for libertarians in general.

                I get that you are attacked wrongly sometimes, (Roger too), and maybe rightly at other times.

                I suggest ignoring comments that you find uncharitable to you or the positions you favor. (Unless you’d like to pass a rule -very unlibertarian-like, dude- requring posters and comments to be more charitable to libertarians.)

                I enjoy your presence here greatly, and hope you enjoy it too, but no good at all (good to society or intellectual, reasoned debate or whatever) comes from anyone’s participation in this blog. In that sense, taking part in this blog doesn’t meet the ideal that academics strive towards in aiming at making the world a more enlightened place. That may sound cynical, but it is true, IMO.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

                The problem is that some people want this place to be like an academic symposium with lots of questions and citations

                Dude, is there really any other way? 😉

                I’d also say E.D. Kain’s blog, with Kuznicki on the masthead, and you being the most common commenter … is a pretty welcoming place for libertarians in general.

                I do say this with a smile on my face, but that’s some fine liberal ‘splainin’.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to James Hanley says:

                @James. Was it not clear that “Screw you” was intended humorously? I thought that in the context of admitting I might have been being a jerk that would be clear. If it wasn’t, I’m sorry. I’d never tell you that and mean it seriously.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

                Man, I’m marking this day on my calendar; the day Mike Schilling failed to deliver a one liner effectively. It may never happen again.

                Thanks, my friend.Report

        • Avatar M.A. in reply to Tod Kelly says:

          Sourdough or whole wheat?Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to DRS says:

      an unlimited comments policy simply allows commentors to post all their jokes and witticisms.

      Why do you hate America?Report

  13. Avatar zic says:

    Wow. This post has turned into the dark side of the second law of thermodynamics.Report

  14. Avatar ktward says:

    My first reaction to Tod’s [typically eloquent] scolding was reflexive guilt: Holy cow, what did I say?! (No, not Catholic school. Non-denom Baptist school. No nuns with rulers, but … other weird stuff.)

    Then I realized that, yet again, I missed some juicy League drama. Gah. No doubt the thing I’m most guilty of is crappy timing.

    Without benefit of knowing what specifically went down, I’m going to risk sharing a few observations. I don’t comment frequently enough that y’all should take my observations with more than the requisite grain of salt, but fwiw …

    – Both Blaise and Hanley have apparently been playing around with the idea of leaving the League (because of each other) and are now seriously considering it. WTH.

    Dudes. Please don’t do it.
    Yes yes, you guys clash all the time. But from the view of my outfield seat, the folks who most think said clashing is problematic is … you two. Thing is, you’re both invaluable and part of the heady mix that makes this Blog the awesome Blog that it is. (And hey, maybe you guys eventually unlock the mystery as to why, politically, the liberals and the libertarians have such a hard time playing nicely together outside of ACLU offices. I mean, it’s not like libertarians and conservatives have all that much in common anymore, right?)

    So, go ahead and clang your rhetorical swords or agree not to, or rise to the other’s bait or not, whatever. The rest of us are grownups and can decide whether we should chime in on your dueling or back away slowly. But, please. Don’t leave.

    – It concerns me a teeny tiny bit that this thread digressed into not just taking “sides”, but naming names on those sides. Names who actually didn’t ask to be named. Names who didn’t like being named. Rather unGent-like, imo. That said, obviously I’m not going to take a side because now that’d make me look altogether silly. However, I feel the most affinity with Mike’s take. Yes, I have a principled thing against censorship, but more than that I’m confident that the League’s uniquely sophisticated and self-reflective commentariat has long proven it can reasonably monitor itself.

    – One of the downsides to Blog success (unless you’re Sully) is that y’all are gonna have trolls from time to time. Some, god bless ’em, quickly reveal themselves better ignored (I’m reminded of that Tel guy*.) But given a sprinkling of League magic (aka coaching), some of these trolls might just turn out to be worthwhile contributors.

    That said, I wish y’all would just get over M.A. already. Sure sure, you don’t like her presentation style– not gentlemanly enough. But she makes salient points and solid arguments. Form should not trump function is all I’m saying. (Holy deja vu– have I said this before? Also too, I’ve no idea if she is a he. Maybe I knew at some point, but I don’t today.)

    *I’ll have serious egg on my face, of course, if Tel’s still hanging around.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to ktward says:

      We’re all crazy shits on the internet. of course we’re going to argue.
      What else is there to do? Smoke some Tea?

      I imagine if most of the folks around here did what blaise is doing (and the good doctor as well), putting boots on the ground and getting some steps in, there would be less shouting and more hugs.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to ktward says:


      You feeling reflexive guilt? Yeah, that’s clearly your upbringing and not anything justified by your commenting here.

      As for me and Blaise, I appreciate your comments, but please consider our happiness as well. If we cannot change the dynamic, the best thing I could do for the good of both of us is to bow out.Report

      • Avatar ktward in reply to James Hanley says:

        As for me and Blaise … please consider our happiness as well. If we cannot change the dynamic, the best thing I could do for the good of both of us is to bow out.

        Dude, seriously, you’re breaking my heart. But you rightfully point out, it’s not my heart at stake here.

        You guys do whatever you feel you have to do. Only you know what’s right for you, and I’ve found you both to be the most honorable of Gents. Do you have any idea how unique your voices are in the blogging world? I’m not sure either of you really do. Then again, your uniqueness might not be an important thing to you, and I not only respect that, I understand it. The pursuit of happiness is about choosing priorities.

        I simply felt compelled … well, to get my own heartbreak on record. To make sure you both know that at least one of us in the cheap seats will be genuinely dismayed if either of you leave The League. (I don’t want to speak for anyone else, but I seriously doubt I’m all by my lonesome in expressing this sentiment. Cheap seats or otherwise.)Report

        • Avatar James Hanley in reply to ktward says:

          In all seriousness, the indications I’ve seen are that both of us are pretty amenable to a quiet word from a third party. Not that it’s anyone else’s responsibility to do so, and not that I’m hinting it’s anyone’s fault but our own. Just, it’s effective if any of you ever think about maybe doing so.Report

          • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to James Hanley says:

            “Boys, here’s the time-out chair. Bell run for the round. Go sit and have a sip of water”.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

              I was thinking of the more parsimonious, “dudes, chill,” but, yeah, that works, too.Report

              • Avatar Rod Engelsman in reply to James Hanley says:

                Unnecessary roughness. Offense. Ten-yard penalty. Third-down.Report

              • Avatar ktward in reply to James Hanley says:

                Really? That’s all you two need is an occasional official pointy-fingered Time Out and you’ll stop all this crazy talk of leaving the League? (Erik? Mark? Tod? You guys recording this?)

                I’m not generally one to toot my own horn, but as a decades-long Mom of kids who turned out dang good despite the tons of stupid stuff I did, I’m actually very experienced at effectively pointing fingers and doling Time Outs.

                Keep it in mind. All I’m saying.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to ktward says:

                Really. That’s all it takes (normally, at least).

                For all the acrimony, Blaise and I each understand where the other is coming from and would each prefer things not go the way they do. In game theory we’d say it’s a suboptimal equilibrium, and often what’s need to break out of a suboptimal equilibrium is a small nudge, sometimes something purely symbolic. (I always think of the UN Peacekeepers in Cyprus. A Greek Cypriot friend of mine assured me that without the peacekeepers, civil war would resume even though nobody would really want it, but that in fact there weren’t enough peacekeepers to forcefully present a resumption of violence–just the symbolism of their presence was sufficient to prevent a recurrence of violence.)Report

              • Avatar Will H. in reply to James Hanley says:

                That’s pretty much the way it works here.
                That’s one thing I don’t understand about the post.

                I’ve been on both sides of that.
                I’ve had a head-on with another commenter(s) to where someone else stepped in to say, “Tone it down.”
                I’ve also been the one to step in to say it.
                In all cases I remember seeing (and I was having a lapse of activity at the times when (BC & H were shown the door), all it takes is a simple word to take notice. And that’s it.

                But it seems a rather extraordinary step to e-mail the editors.
                The community typically takes care of such things.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Will H. says:

                Will, I am in general agreement, other than that I don’t think either the community or editors do so frequently enough. E.g., before things really begin to escalate, there’s always one or two comments that clearly indicate more interest in fighting than in discussion, and the outcome is for a disinterested third-party to quietly warn about where that type of comment is going to lead.

                The League is unique, at least so far as my knowledge goes, in explicitly and purposively trying to bring together different political viewpoints and asking people to actively listen to and try to understand each other. It’s a hell of a tough task since it goes against all our tribal and ideological instincts, and it requires continued maintenance of the structure.

                I wouldn’t urge for a more aggressive ban-hammer, but in my considered opinion, the structure would benefit from two small institutional changes. One, a slightly more restrictive comments policy, so that not just blanket personal attacks that don’t address the substance of an argument are disallowed, but comments that are as much or more more insult as substance in their effect. The current rules allows me to say, “your argument is misguided because you discount the effect of X, you psychopathic a**hole,” which means the rule specifically allows comments that undermine the League’s goal. Second, they need more effective monitoring, because rules that aren’t monitored and enforced regularly are not real rules at all (e.g., 55 mph on rural freeways…back in the day). That’s too much to ask of the editors, but perhaps they could “deputize” some people, asking broadly respected folks to take a little more active role in redirecting unpromising lines of argument, or make it a requirement of authorship status that when you’re reading you have a duty to look out for those things (on other people’s posts, not their own). This wouldn’t hinder real active debate, but only flame wars.

                The place obviously isn’t going to fall apart without such changes, but institutions have to be well-designed for the goals, or the goals will remain tantalizingly out-of-reach. That Tod has to on occasion write posts about the commenting culture seems to me evidence in itself that the goal is not achieved, at least not to the degree desired (although in comparison to most political blogs, the place is still a marvel of decorum).

                I offer those suggestions, the product of my knowledge as a world-reknowned scholar of institutional design, free, gratis, waiving my standard fee of 10,000 bitcoins.Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Will H. says:

                Here’s a solution that COULD work, I think (don’t know how technically difficult it would be to implement.)

                Some sites have “Like/Dislike” buttons on each comment; if a comment gets enough dislikes/low-rankings, it gets hidden (but can be opened).

                LoOG could do something similar; but instead of “like/dislike”, there’s a “cool it down, buster” button; and it doesn’t hide anything.

                If a comment gets enough of these “cool it’s” by commenters/observers, the commenter gets a warning on their next comment on that post; if that next comment (or maybe subsequent ones, within a specified timeframe) gets enough “cool it down, buster” clicks, then the commenter gets blocked from commenting (either on that post, or the site) for say 1 hour…basically, it’s “hit the showers!” time.

                Now, obviously, commenters would have to respect the “civility” norm, and not game the button’s use by using it as proxy to say “shut up, I don’t like what you are saying”.

                But the nice thing about this is it doesn’t require constant monitoring by admins; and the consequences (go do something else for an hour and think about why everyone else is saying “cool down”) aren’t all that dire; and bystanders who want to say “cool it” but are reticent to speak up, or intervene in a heated flamewar (because of course you have better things to do than make yourself a target and get dragged into the mud) can have a say.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Will H. says:

                And you don’t think that certain, y’know, miscreants with misplaced senses of humor would compete to see who could get the highest “Cool it!” score?Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Will H. says:

                Oh sure, it’d get gamed sooner or later. But if you want to lock yourself out of the site for an hour (or day, or whatever the period is), knock yourself out. Seems like it’d get boring pretty quick. The consequence isn’t dire, but it should be annoying enough to prevent too much of that.

                And again, it would depend on people remembering, this is a “you’re being a jerk in the way you are making your point”, rather than a “I don’t like your point” button, and/or conspiring to use the button against people they don’t like.

                It *might* work on a site like this, where the community is fairly small and for the most part mostly sensible on most topics.


              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to James Hanley says:

                just the symbolism of their presence was sufficient to prevent a recurrence of violence.

                Next time you get into it with BP try to remember that ktward might be watching with that disapproving glare only moms can give!Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Stillwater says:

                She should have a special gravatar, one where she’s frowning instead of smiling, for those cases. She wouldn’t even have to include an actual comment, just an empty textbox by the gravatar of her mom frown.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Stillwater says:

                I’m so in love with this idea.

                She should probably just create a different gravatar account linked to a throwaway mail alias so she can use it without having to toggle pictures back and forth (which would cause the Mom Frown to show up everywhere).Report

              • Avatar ktward in reply to Stillwater says:

                I just now saw these comments, totally cracked me up. I’m presently dealing with, well, let’s just say beaucoup technical difficulties, but I’ll see what I can do about a frowny grav. Brilliantly fun idea.

                omg, I just remembered … there’s a semi-recent pic of me that I liked because I was having a really really good hair day, but my daughter remarked, “Ma, take that pic down. The look on your face is scary- I feel like you’re gonna count to three and then kick my ass anyway.” Surely I can crop that into something workable. (Sigh. It’s gonna hurt to crop out the hair, but it must be done. Don’t judge me- I have precious few good hair days to begin with much less good hair days that happen to get caught on camera.)Report

              • Avatar Anne in reply to Stillwater says:

                Doesn’t that put a lot of work on Ktward to be the “hall monitor”? If you come up with a Mom Frown Gravatar you should share the image that way we could all whip it out when someone is getting out of line.

                You could tell at a glance that a post is too combative by the string of Mom Frowns following it? 🙁Report

              • Avatar ktward in reply to Stillwater says:

                I’m pretty sure no one expects any consistent monitoring from me. But if defusing a radioactive sub-thread is called for, nothing works better to lighten things up than an injection of funny which is why I liked Stillwater’s and James’ and Patrick’s thinking.

                But to your excellent point, Anne, I bet something even as simple and ubiquitous as this would work just as well.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to James Hanley says:


            As I just said below, I can endorse this heartily. JH and BP both usually know when they’ve crossed the line, even if they are not apt to act independently on that knowledge. But they are highly responsive to a gentle nudge.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to ktward says:

      Huh. M.A. is a she? That just blew my mind. Ah, the power of gravatars.

      Otherwise, a mighty +1 to ktward all the way ’round.Report

      • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        I have… has… I have no idea what M.A.’s gender is.

        I haven’t seen a relevance on any of the threads in which we’ve butted heads. Sometimes gender matters.Report

      • Avatar ktward in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Whatever gender I assign to M.A. for the sake of pronouns has no doubt everything to do with my own quirky quirks and nothing to do with any signals or crumbs M.A. has left.

        Honest to god, I didn’t even notice the gravatar gender. So it won’t surprise any of you that in real life I am famous! for my keen inobservation of the obvious. I miss signals all the time. My kids could tell you horror stories. (Horrific to them, hilarious to me because, well, I live to embarrass them.)

        In my defense, I did notice that Snarky’s grav is a pointy-toothed chick and I’m pretty sure that he’s a he. (If he’s a she, then nevermind my attempt at defense.)Report

        • Avatar M.A. in reply to ktward says:

          I think there are more important things to discuss than whether I’m Tab A or Slot B.Report

          • Avatar zic in reply to M.A. says:

            Yes. But that some folk even considered that there might be different tabs; slots they hadn’t considered, only presumed . . . that’s a bit of an awakening, and a joyous thing to behold.

            Thank you for being exhibit M.A. Whatever you are, man, woman, or AI with a cartoon avatar, I’m grateful for it. You say a lot of things here that need to be said. Thank you.Report

              • Avatar ktward in reply to ktward says:

                [When oh when will I learn not to click Submit so quickly?]

                Meanwhile, M.A., without evidence to the contrary and for the sake of efficient pronoun use I will continue to think of you as a She because that’s the team I bat for and, well, I like you.

                But if you’re a He, I won’t like you any less. I’ll simply be more accurately informed. (The biggest problem on my end seems to be whether or not I’ll remember today’s info tomorrow.)Report

    • Avatar Plinko in reply to ktward says:

      I was gonna write something very close to what ktward wrote, so instead I’ll mostly just chime in with a hearty +1.

      I would like to say, as long as we’re naming names, that I’m extremely fond of reading the comments of most of those so named in this little war. I would be extremely disappointed to see any of them leave over these spats.
      I find some of those so named to be commenters of the utmost excellence who have taught me something or changed my mind on more than one occasion.
      A couple of them, I agree, have not represented their ‘sides’ all that well at times and occasionally don’t rise to the very highest level of fair minded argumentation. I get frustrated with them sometimes even when they’re ostensible on ‘my side’ (and I think of myself as belonging in both camps depending on the subject at hand).
      But, on their worst days, they’re still more interesting and contribute more positively to the dialogue than 99% of the commentary I see at most other political/cultural sites where almost every comment demonstrates an utter lack of basic reading comprehension.

      My one note of advice to those so fed up as to feel the need to go – just walk away from some threads. And don’t grandstand with the ‘I’m done with this conversation!’ posts, just walk. The person you’re disagreeing with doesn’t win any prizes because they got the last word in and none of us are keeping score at home to say to our fellow team members ‘man, Hanley went home with his tail between his legs after that withering insult from Blaise. Go team Lib’ruls!! Yay!!’.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to ktward says:

      Some days, I wish I was ktward. Beautiful, confident, and even if she doesn’t know just the right thing to say, she seems to know and says just the right thing,

      Today is one of those days.

      There should be flowers strewn upon every path you take, today. Maybe tomorrow, too.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to zic says:

        Yeah she’s da bomb. But then so are you, z.Report

      • Avatar ktward in reply to zic says:

        Holy cow. How does one blush on the intertoobz? Somebody, please, throw me an emoticon!

        Zic, you are … beyond gracious. And make no mistake, I read all your posts. (Wait. That sounds more stalky than I mean it to.) The transcendent way that you meet life’s challenges? Girl, you are nothing less than heroic. You remind me of my [real time] best friend. Inspirational, but that description doesn’t go nearly far enough for either of you.

        Heh, Clearly you do not know me. I am indeed a bumbling mass of self-contradictions and a veritable host of unsavory character flaws. Oh, how I wish it were not so! I keed you not. Anyhoo, by all means strive to manifest said strewn flowers because I’m pretty sure there’s not a hope in hell I’ll ever see that again in this lifetime. I best take it when I can get it. (I’m no doubt pushing every respectable boundary here and shouldn’t specify which flower I’d like … but if it happens to come up in the course of convo, Gardenias.)Report

        • Avatar zic in reply to ktward says:

          Gardenias. In your hair.

          I’d really need the whole herb garden to function as a proper hedgewitch. But when battling trolls, there’s one flower that that’s essential. I want monk’s hood on my path, since it’s wandered through the Valley of Darkness and I do fear the evil too often. Aconitum. Pretty and Poisonous. And the bees just love it.Report

          • Avatar ktward in reply to zic says:

            Bees! Whatever the bees love, I love. They’re in crisis so we are ultimately in crisis. (Full disclosure: I drink my daily green tea with honey, so that likely has something to do with my awareness and appreciation of bees and all they do for us.)Report

  15. Avatar Kazzy says:

    I’ve seen James Hanley and BlaiseP’s names bandied about here in a few different ways and I want to say this:

    On a couple of my posts, both folks have gotten into it with some others. Conversations went south. As best I remember, neither of the two guys was the one that actually escalated it over the line, but both played a part in it going there. However, when I intervened asking for cooler heads to prevail, both JH and BP were the ones to recognize the error and take actions to correct for it. That said a lot to me. I hope both do the same here and decide to stick around.Report

  16. Avatar zic says:

    All I know is that I feel like I’ve got friends here. Friends who will correct me when my vision of things get’s off kilter.

    Imagine that.Report

  17. Avatar Chris says:

    It never ceases to amaze me how many comments threads about this blog’s comments produce.Report

  18. Avatar Roger says:

    “That said, I wish y’all would just get over M.A. already. Sure sure, you don’t like her presentation style– not gentlemanly enough. But she makes salient points and solid arguments. Form should not trump function is all I’m saying.”

    I guess I should just shut up and mind my place, but the defense of MA and Blaise’s comment style* is insulting.  The two of them have sworn at libertarians, called us names, accused us of being full of BS, told us to F off, and linked us to FU video links at least a hundred times in the last year. Everyone following the threads in detail should know this.  Yes they make salient points and interesting arguments.  But that is not the issue.  The point is that they are routinely, even predominantly rude, mean and uncivil to those they disagree with, and this behavior is not acceptable just because they say something you agree with politically. Indeed, by making light of it you are effectively encouraging them. 

    My take on these comments and the defense of this uncivil behavior is that those disagreeing with the consensus view are welcome here only so long as they mind their station.

    We need to decide on our future course.  On the current path, many of those that do not share the predominant liberal view are going to be pushed out or at least discouraged from participating actively in the comments. Really. 

    James’ suggestions above need to be taken very seriously.

    * Blaise was described as knowing when he crosses the line and being responsive to a gentle nudge.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Roger says:

      [paragraph deleted at writer’s request – tk]

      The caveat is that it has to be a third party whom the person respects, or has a good relationship with. It normally can’t be the other person in the argument, unless that person can work up some real humbleness when being attacked, and respond in a cordial way that completely sacrifices all opportunity to make a final statement.

      Or if you really think the one party is impossible, give the word to the other party, because all it takes is for one party to come to their senses for the battle to end. There are no conquering and occupying armies here, thank god.


      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to James Hanley says:

        I do mind. If I have anything to say about myself, I’ll say it. In the course of making what I considered to be a joke about the endless recursion over definitions around here, a recursion you’ve repeatedly instigated and perpetuated, here you’ve come, puffing and blowing, yet again, to take umbrage.

        BlaiseP’s Corollary to Godwin’s was a joke. Other people got the joke. You didn’t.

        If anyone’s owed an apology, I owe LoOG an apology for allowing myself to be dragged into yet another go-round with you. But to you, Hanley, I will never apologise nor will I accept one from you. I said I don’t want your apologies because you’re constantly starting the same fights, over and over.

        Now will you at long last just put a sock in it? You are the very last person around here to lecture on the subject of letting battles end or invoking third parties.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley in reply to BlaiseP says:

          I apologize, unreservedly, and authorize you or any other person with access privileges to delete my comment. I would, in all sincerity, be more comfortable if it was taken down, since I was out of line in speaking for another person.Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to BlaiseP says:

          Can we at least infer from this particular exchange that you both know there was in fact a policy that covered probably 75%+ of the objectionable statements you have made to each other (and I am not attributing any particular proportion of those to each of you) over the past year-plus that, had either of you had a real problem with what was going on, could have been cited in an appeal to management, and that such an appeal was not made until quite recently?

          (And to management: if this particular pair of commenters’ exchanges had been removed as a matter of overall assessment from general commenting practice, do you think that the culture arising from the remaining commenters’ tendencies would have been such that a statement like this post would have been necessary to redirect overall culture? Or do you suppose that dealing with this pair as a discreet problem and then simply executing a conclusion that there needed to be a somewhat more active enforcement of existing rules might have been sufficient to significantly redirect the overall tendencies in the comments? Perhaps the inclination is simply that a straightforward statement of intention is either preferable to, or necessary to explain, any noticeable change in the trends in actions to enforce policy that the editors might have undertaken. I completely respect that if that is the view, but just as a matter of commenter feedback, I think I can say that I would personally prefer the more direct approach.)Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Roger says:

      How come we run Hollywood, Academia, and now the League, but we can’t do a damned thing about the Senate?Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Roger says:

      I was a lot more like MA when i first got here. Now, to some extent, that was because I was dealing with actual tardedness (this word is a neologism that I am coining right now. it has nothing to do with developmental disabilities, and has everything to do with people being fucking slow to come to obvious conclusions and instead preferring conspiracy theories).

      And to some extent it was me.Report

  19. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    In terms of an unwelcoming atmosphere for libertarians. And then on the question of steps to take to change the comment culture, if we agree that that is something that needs to be accomplished.

    If it’s true that it is the case that the site is unwelcoming for libertarians now, then it is a relatively recent development. this place evolves in waves – perhaps repeating waves, we don’t know yet. But as far as I am aware, there are libertarian editors of this site who at one time regarded it as sufficiently tilted in favor of libertarianism and certain kind of conservatism that there was a concerted effort to recruit liberal contributors. Perhaps a degree of patience and perspective as to the history of the site are what’s needed to put the current comment culture in context.

    Now, I believe that previous assessment primarily, though not exclusively, regarded the balance of contributors. I do agree that the comment culture has come to exhibit more crassness in some liberals’ characterization of libertarianism and particular libertarians than it had in the past before it was quite as extensive as it is now. I would argue that a significant amount of those kinds of statements have very plausibly fallen under the comment policy that exists (i.e. the problem is that they have often been essentially content-free or at least relevant-to-the-post-content-free aspersions and, more to the point, just plain name calling against other people and viewpoints. I think that fairly light editorial interventions in those cases would be warranted under current policy, and, as has been suggested above, would probably be sufficient to redirect the energies of basically well-meaning but spirited community members. If it weren’t, more vigorous intervention would be warranted too, if the problem persisted.

    This all seems rather elementary to me. understanding better what kind of comment is the concern that originated this post (i.e. insults and namecalling, not merely less-than-good-faith arguments), I do acknowledge incidents – really, many of them – that it’s legitimate for commenters to have taken offense to, and which are actionable under existing policy. (To be perfectly honest, I think that they had gone on for so long that I had come to assume, perhaps not even being aware of having made the assumption, that essentially this is how both sides like to play: self-governance via competitive disdain. Had either side had a fundamental objection to this trend or thought it shouldn’t be part of the League culture, I’d have thought one side would have spoken to management long ago, or likewise for onlookers. But now that complaints have been made, it seems to me that action under currently policy is perfectly justified.)

    But as to changes in policy or overall approach, I would again counsel considerable deliberation. I believe that the comment policy and culture here has by-and-large served the site well. I don’t think it’s clear that institutional design flaws lie at the root of our currently not-really-very-benighted-at-all state. (I don’t deny it outright either). For the moment, I think it would be worth operating for a time on the hypothesis that there has primarily been a problem with a certain degree of insufficiently active referees who have a sufficient rulebook to work with (natch). I think the evidence for this hypothesis is significant. It may not be true, and we can find out. Meanwhile, we can contemplate changes to the rulebook. But first i do think that (if it is what the community wants) we should try a slightly more active approach to encouraging compliance with the simple rule(s?) we do have.

    Those are my two bitcoins.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Michael Drew says:

      I honestly think that the problem with our “environment” has little do to with libertarians or liberals or conservatives or whatever (though I wish we had more honest-to-god conservatives). It has to do with people who have been here long enough to be considered part of the furniture (and I am chief among sinners).

      Most anyone who comes here knows that they are going to be arguing with/against people who have been arguing with/against each other for years. Like, literally years.

      That can be a scary and intimidating environment to thrust oneself into.

      I don’t find the environment hostile to libertarians… though there are a handful of commenters/authors who are hostile to them. There are a handful of commenters/authors who are hostile to conservatives. There are a handful of commenters/authors who are hostile to liberals. And, hell, there are a handful of commenters/authors who are hostile to any of these groups when a certain topic comes up… conservatives are all well and good when we’re talking about, oh, the coarsening of the culture. Liberals are all well and good when we’re talking about, oh, the social safety net. Let there be a discussion about whether we, as a society, have a compelling interest in whether someone becomes obese and gets diabetes? I turn into Honey Badger.

      Many of us have similar Honey Badger buttons…

      And those of us who have been arguing amongst ourselves for the last billion years are familiar, mostly, with each other and, even if we don’t recognize what each others’ buttons are, we tend to be able to recognize when they have been pushed… and we aren’t afraid at all to dance around whomever’s turn it is today to be Honey Badger.

      But I can see that dance being very, very intimidating indeed to anybody who isn’t already furniture around here.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Jaybird says:

        I’ve repeatedly compared the Libertarians to the Marxists: both movements fought bitterly within their own ranks. It’s like Protestant theology: I once watched a fistfight break out in a church over Infant Baptism. It led to the dissolution of that church.

        Liberals around here are similarly divided along what can only be described as dogmatic lines. Conservatives, well, their movement is in such disarray at present it’s hard to say if there’s any unity left in that camp.

        Given that each of us has his own view of the truth, wouldn’t it seem more appropriate to view your position as Jaybird Libertarian rather than Libertarian Jaybird? Am I truly attacking Libertarians because every discussion around here seems to end up in the same tiresome bickering out at the level of full indention?

        Has anyone been convinced of the truth of anyone else’s argument? I’d say yes. Almost always yes. If BlaiseP’s version of truth is integrated with Jaybird’s version of truth, surely we have the facts of the issue in common, whether or not we agree on any conclusions. And we’d have a larger view of the truth, one which we could use for triangulation to see if those facts are really as important in the larger scheme of things as we think they are.

        I once tried to posit a parabola of regulation, with two unacceptable zeroes on the X axis: statism and anarchy. I thought that synthesis was apt, a way of considering both viewpoints as necessary checks and balances upon each other’s tendencies to over- or under-regulate on an arbitrary issue. Yet when I come back on the Libertarians around here, pointing out there’s another side to these issues, one which honest people might consider as valid as their own — hell, Jaybird, I don’t even bother coming back any more. It’s not worth the trouble. All I ever get is the same simplistic assertions, ever more angrily repeated.

        Now the other day, Roger and I were going around and came to some agreement, hell I can’t remember offhand what it was. I said “Thesis, antithesis, synthesis.” Since everyone who’s been here long enough knows you tend toward the FYIGM persuasion, you’ve even made jokes about it yourself, hey, there’s plenty of validity in the argument from personal property, enough for me and you to somehow go round the mulberry bush.

        Want a civil discussion? Learn where to find some point of agreement. Accept the best possible reading of a given comment or post. Treat every response as a compliment, if possible: someone thought enough of what you wrote to respond to it, even if they didn’t agree with it. Synthesis, people. There are some people around here who never get beyond Thesis and Antithesis. And learn to recognise a joke for goodness’ sake.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to BlaiseP says:

          Well, I’d say that robust maintenance of a sense of humor is a pre-req.Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Jaybird says:

            Absolutely. All these posts and comments — may I make an analogy which may fail rather quickly here?

            An artist lives his life like a fisherman, trawling the nets of his mind through the world. Here and there, things get caught in them. He sits down before his canvas, or picks up his guitar, or fires up the computer, his choice of instrument or medium matters not a whit to this analogy — pulls in those nets and dumps it onto the deck of his little ship. He creates a work of art, the product of his internal vision, translated into something external.

            In these sorry times, what with everyone signing his work, we have conflated the art with the artist. In response, the artists and writers and musicians have created Personas behind which they hide. But this wasn’t always so and while it wasn’t, artists were still people, craftsmen mostly, emerging from apprenticeship into masters. If they signed their stuff, they hid the signatures: the blocks of stone in the cathedrals were thus signed. That was for quality control, mostly.

            I don’t write under my own name, though I suppose I’m easily enough identified by anyone interested enough in finding me. I’ve said some awfully personal things to you lot. Picasso painted Guernica and everyone remembers those terrified faces, the screaming horse. With a bit of looking, you can find the skull. Sorta helps to know the story of Guernica but it’s not essential to understanding the work of art. It stands alone.

            It isn’t until the Renaissance where signatures matter. There’s Michelangelo, so jealous of fame he goes back and signs the Pieta, just because someone didn’t know enough to give him the credit. It’s said Michelangelo always regretted it and swore never to sign another piece of art.

            The arguments we make around here — shouldn’t they stand and fall on their own merits? This isn’t some robotics competition, where these machines go out in the Thunderdome and two robots enter and one robot leaves. These aren’t the sort of arguments anyone wins outright. They are abstractions given life in some persistence layer out behind the PHP which catches a form POST.

            This isn’t about me or you. It’s about the arguments we make. Endless repetition, as I’ve said, insults everyone’s intelligence, especially when we already know where everyone else stands. So I write some extravagant and purply bit of philippic: I’m trying not to be boring. Defend your argument. Exhibit some semblance of a sense of humour. It’s not about you. It’s about us.Report

      • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Jaybird says:

        Many of us have similar Honey Badger buttons…

        And those of us who have been arguing amongst ourselves for the last billion years are familiar, mostly, with each other and, even if we don’t recognize what each others’ buttons are, we tend to be able to recognize when they have been pushed… and we aren’t afraid at all to dance around whomever’s turn it is today to be Honey Badger.

        There’s a chance for me to go all meta here, and that’s kind of my thing, so here I go ’round the Mulberry Bush…

        I agree with this, yes. Everybody has buttons, and recognizing where they are and who has them and what happens when you push them is something you get used to by osmosis when you hang around in a community a lot. Knowing who has the red button just sitting there, and who has the red button under the giant plastic bubble that needs to be flipped aside first, as well. That sort of thing.

        Generally, folks around here are pretty good at gauging where those red buttons are and either engaging around them, or at the very least ignoring when two members of the commentariat have done gone and pushed the other person’s buttons and the resultant Honey Badger v. Honey Badger cage match has occurred.

        There’s a few meta behaviors that also occur that I’m not terribly fond of, myself.

        The first one is the “button safety off” front. That’s when I see someone doing the equivalent of standing in front of their control panel and loudly flipping all the plastic bubbles off of their buttons and standing back with the “you’re not going to make me push this, now, are you!?!?” look on their face. Thankfully, that doesn’t happen much ’round here.

        Then you get the gremlin who comes into what otherwise is a fairly normal conversation between two people and the gremlin takes everybody’s safeties off. Not even necessarily just the two people going back and forth, but tries to do it to everybody. The “I will say this because right now I know that will make that other guy say this other thing, to me, which will set off that third person, and then I can stand back and watch the thread run right off the rails”. Thankfully, we’ve managed not to attract too many of those in the League history, either. Even the ones that have dropped by and been a part of the site here and there, for the most part, don’t seem like it’s something that they’re aware they are doing. Well except Duck, but he was obvious about it and for the most part everybody just knew what he was doing and tolerated it, like Peeves at Hogwarts.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Michael Drew says:

      I’d have thought one side would have spoken to management long ago,

      Volunteer’s dilemma, perhaps.Report

    • Avatar Roger in reply to Michael Drew says:

      I think James’ suggestions of a more restrictive comments policy which discourages uncivil insults connected to a rebuttal, combined with monitoring by league members and participants would be more than sufficient.

      When one of us tells the other to F off, or says they are full of BS, or as naive as a pig in you know what, the rest of the league should immediately jump in and say that this is unacceptable. Peer pressure would go a long way.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Roger says:

        I mean, I think one very slight change, which would probably reflect the orientation of the editors toward enforcement of the policy as written anyway, would do alot to clarify what’s acceptable. It would simply be to change

        In general, a comment will be deemed inappropriate if it makes no attempt to address a point germane to the original post or another comment and instead contains nothing more than a blanket personal attack directed at the author or another commenter will be deleted.


        In general, a comment will be deemed inappropriate if it makes no attempt to address a point germane to the original post or another comment and instead or contains [nothing more than (–> this we could discuss -md)] a blanket personal attack directed at the author or another commenter will may[? -md] be deleted.

        Submitted for community and editorial consideration.Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

          Maybe consolidate the remedies like so:

          In general, a comment will be deemed inappropriate and may be deleted if it makes no attempt to address a point germane to the original post or another comment and instead or contains [nothing more than ?] a blanket personal attack directed at the author or another commenter will .Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

            …err you get what I mean.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Michael Drew says:

              Make it “little more” rather than “nothing,” and you’d have my vote.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to James Hanley says:

                …Actually, I’m fine if we take out any proportion of content to insult and just better define what can’t be said. I agree with Roger that if a person doesn’t like being called a Fucktard, for example, she should have recourse to an official rule about that, even if the comment contains 96% excellent content. And at the same time, I actually don’t really want to make it so that one commenter cannot simply tell another that she has essentially zero respect for the other commenter’s entire body of experience and knowledge in so many words and nothing else. But like I’ve been saying, I’m probably not in the mainstream on that, and if that rule gets made (and indeed, that would already be covered under the existing rule), that’s fine. I’ve always been pretty much fine with whatever this place does, so outstanding among places like it do I find it.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

                …And don’t get me wrong, one of my least favorite things to do here is become involved in saying what my assessment of other commenters’ value as commenters or people is – or even just generally voice my opinion of what they do as distinct from what I think of their arguments (or have theirs about me voiced). But I am unsure that I want to write that out of legitimate discussion, even when those opinions are so negative as to be undeniably an attack (or where there is little functional distinction). I just think that kind of thing has to have an outlet in a community of people who regularly interact certain each other as unique constant personalities. Even if I want to avoid it where possible.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

                …So come to think of it, I guess I don’t really like the existing policy all that much. I guess I’m more concerned with the use of vulgar, harsh language in the course of a personal attack (as opposed to the simply voicing of a low opinion of another person, as much as I’d like that to happen as little as possible). But I still think that the existing policy has served us well, and would be fine if it stayed the same or was changed as I suggest above.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Yeah I agree.

                It is appropriate to say you believe the other person is being dishonest or inconsiderate. It is absolutely inappropriate to say they are a lying piece of S whose motto is FYIGM.

                If the latter type of uncivil behavior is exhibited, the other participants should call it out, refrain from encouraging it, and if the offended party or transgressors requests, deleted from the comments.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Saying that libertarianism amounts essentially to FYIGM is a point that has content. People should be allowed to make it and keep making it even after others believe they have disproved it. That’s exactly the kind of proposition I don’t want the editors finally resolving, though of course that’s their call. In my view, such are the idea wars, even if repetition of that view is an unimpressive way to wage it, and I believe we should be free to hash out the use of that phrase indefinitely. But it’s of course ultimately the editor’s choice. FYIGM is, OTOH, a vulgar expression, so if you would like to have the particular acronym stricken because you see it as a vulgar attack on your viewpoint, I can accept that. By my lights, however, you cannot be made protected from attacks on your viewpoint just because you view them as unfair in some way. You’re responsible for taking them on, repeatedly disproving them, ignoring them, whatever you want to do.

                How can we claim to have a place where ideas are openly discussed if we start striking certain conceptual attacks on particular viewpoints just because the holders of those viewpoints feel those attacks are unfair?Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Michael Drew says:

                As you said, it is a vulgar attack.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

                It’s vulgar in the sense I’m concerned with only because of the presence of the word Fuck.

                So then you’d be okay if it were replaced by IMMMAIDCWHTY? That is, I Made My Money And I Don’t Care What Happens to You.

                People can say that’s what libertarianism is and be wrong about it until the cows come home here, right?Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

                …Or in any case, whatever Roger’s feelings on the matter, we should decide that question.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Yes. I reject only the vulgarity. I consider it uncivil.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Okay, that’s fair. I think it skirts the line because it’s nearly always directed an an ideology, and the thing the policy has always been concerned with and that i remain concerned with, are personal attacks. For me, ones including harsh vulgarity. Even the claim, “Your ideology amounts to FYIGM” is really not a personal attack. It’s actually an entirely substantive claim. I don’t really know how you can get rid of it without getting rid of all like vulgarity that comes in the course of substantive arguments. And I don’t think that’s on the table.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Michael Drew says:

                If you ban vulgarity, you’re just asking me to be more creative. I promise you that banning vulgarity is likely to make my speech more disturbing/offensive when I’m upset. It also may have the effect of tempering some of my more illconsidered outburts.

                just saying…Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Saying that libertarianism amounts essentially to FYIGM is a point that has content.

                I disagree. Just as I disagree that shouting “socialist” or “statist” at every liberal has content. In my mind, stripping any ideology down to one single negative concept is an exercise in stripping away all actual content from one’s argument.

                Not that I’d ban such terms, including FYIGM, but I think that whichever side they’re used by the only appropriate response is to roll one’s eyes and pointedly note the emptiness of all such claims.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Not that I’d ban such terms, including FYIGM, but I think that whichever side they’re used by the only appropriate response is to roll one’s eyes and pointedly note the emptiness of all such claims.

                Yeah, pretty much this.Report

              • Avatar kenB in reply to Michael Drew says:

                FYIGM is great — it’s loud and obvious and makes my comment-reading triage process much easier.Report

              • Avatar trumwill mobile in reply to Michael Drew says:

                My issue with FYIGM is that it’s a nonfalsifiable accusation of motive. How does one know whether a position is being held out of comfortable selfishness? Maybe if someone actually says “I work hard for my money and damn if I’ll let the governmenttake iit and give it to some deadbeat,” but it’s being used is response to “I think poor people should have more options on where to send their kids to school.” and “I’ve gone to minor league sporting events and had a blast; there’s nothing wrong with going to those.”Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Michael Drew says:

                FYIGM is an easy trope to detonate.
                “I’m already busy working to help our public schools, for goodness sakes!” [School board member, Big Brothers Big Sisters volunteer, yadda yadda].

                Or What Have You. I could suggest half a dozen libertarian friendly things that can say “no, liberal, I really do fucking care”.

                It’s basically a request on the part of the liberal to say “do you really care about everyone else?”Report

              • Avatar trumwill mobile in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Kim, but whatever you support doing, it’s insufficient or wrong and demonstrates that you don’t *really* care. Because caring is supporting specific parties or ideologies.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Michael Drew says:

                I honestly think that MA, and half the crazy liberals, would actually listen to “I’m doing something, lay OFF!” Maybe I’m just more a fan of hollerin’ than some folks here (*cough* roger*cough*)Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling in reply to Michael Drew says:

                “Volunteer? I earned my money through exchanges that made both myself and the other party better off, and therefore since I’m richer than you are I’ve done more good.”Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Eh, I just vote for the democrat. That generally is sufficient evidence that I care enough about people that I don’t have to do anything else. Hell, it’s usually enough to give me footing to question the motives of others.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Michael Drew says:

                @Mike: … and furthermore, I’m a completely self-made man. If I happen to have a few advantages, like American citizenship and white skin and a penis and going to the right schools and having the right parents and made the right connections, well, none of that has anything to do with my success, none at all, and if you’re thinking it does, well, you’re just a whiner.

                In the immortal words of Stuart Smalley: “Compare and despair!”Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling in reply to Michael Drew says:

                “I’m a self-made man.”

                “That doesn’t say much for either of you.”Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Michael Drew says:

                I vote Green. Even Democrats cower in front of my self-righteousness.Report

              • Avatar Major Zed in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Saying that libertarianism amounts essentially to FYIGM is a point that has content.

                Then maybe I can start using GMYFM to encapsulate this view of modern liberalism: “Give me your fishing money; I have better plans for it than you, and besides you didn’t really earn it in the first place.”

                About the same level of nuance as FYIGM, I’d say.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Well, of course, just shouting one word is likely (though not certain) to have basically no content. But claiming that liberalism is just socialism in disguise (or something to that effect) clearly carries content. And to the subject of the OP, frankly denying this seems to me to almost necessarily have some kind of bad faith behind it. This is not complicated language. The concept of ideological content seems pretty clear to me. “F you you F-tard” does not have any; “Libertarianism is primarily just selfishness dressed up in fancy words” clearly does. I mean, for God’s sake, it clearly does, however manifestly wrong it is.

                So by all means, yes, Major Zed, you can do that. It would be a statement that had content, and I agree on your assessment of its relative nuance to libertarianism=FYIGM.

                These are beliefs that are out there, and they combine various rich (or less rich but still recognizably meaningful) concepts (socialism, liberalism, libertarianism, selfishness) using various kinds of relations which also in themselves carry content (“is essentially the same as”; “is significantly motivated by”; “frequently exhibit”). These statements carry claims about relations between meaningful concepts; hey carry content. They also might be radically wrong, or gross oversimplifications, or both. But they carry content – indeed a great deal of it.

                Clearly, there are various ways to respond to such claims. One could be to “roll one’s eyes and pointedly note the emptiness of all such claims.” I’m not sure exactly what that means, to be honest. Address them substantively, or just dismiss them as empty by assertion? If it’s the latter, that’s not what we’ve always done. I, for one, don’t regret that the extended exchange that occurred starting here is now in the record. I don’t think any libertarian should. As I say, this view is out there. I would think it might been seen as worth having rebuttals like that on the record to point to. Going forward, it could be pointed to as a substantive rebuttal to any more such claims. Or – they could just be ignored or dismissed as absurd or previously dealt with in these pages.

                But the point is that these are comprehensible, content-carrying claims, not that different from any other such claims we believe are wrong, wrong, wrong. Some such claims it’s best to just wave away as absurd; others we prefer to rebut for the record as we have the very claims under discussion now. But they’re not somehow devoid of content, just as racism is not devoid of content. It’s just wrong content.Report

              • Avatar Russell M in reply to Michael Drew says:

                to mr. drew.

                I dont always under stand what you write but when i do it’s brilliant. and I think you should win the “long form Blog Post Reactions” award.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:


                Not sure if this is maybe a devastating deadpan insult, but if not, thank you. You frequently don’t understand me because I frequently write ridiculously unclearly. In fact, I frequently astound myself with how bad it is. This is the reason I confine myself to comments. I spend more time doing this than is my intent (obviously) prior to improving the clarity of the language. I would refuse to publish much of my commentary down here on the blog because the writing is beyond unacceptable. I’ve tried to write posts in the past, and find that the editing process just has me running in circles until I literally collapse from exhaustion. I also find it disfficult to decide on and clarify what i want to say as an original initiative of my own apart from being prompted by others’ initial statements or comments. (I realize I open myself to criticism by having that tendency; I accept it.)

                I feel blog comments exist for people like me who just need to get the arguments out; if people have trouble following them due to my poor expression of them, so much is the loss for my point of view. (If that’s not the case, I would like to be informed that I’m not acting in the spirit of the forum that has been assembled here.) From m y perspective, that’s okay; I’m doing it because I’ve been drawn in and just need to try to represent the point I’m trying to make as an expressive act. Again, IMO that’s okay for a comments section but it does not and would not contribute to better quality in the OP contributions. I just don’t have the personal energy resources to produce writing for the blog that would improve on what existing contributors regularly produce. If I did I happily would.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

                …And just so folks know, I am trying to better manage it all so that the effort can go into creating posts rather than just comments. It’s fits and starts. To everyone who produces extensive posts filled with clean, clear prose carrying incisive, supported arguments – which is basically every contributor and sub-blogger – you each have my somewhat awed, renewed respect with each additional post. For those of you who haven’t tried it, this is not easy to do, people. We should appreciate our contributors for that — and our editors for facilitating all of this. That is also a daunting task that should go more acknowledged than it frequently does. So for my part, consider both of those groups’ contributions hereby acknowledged !Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Michael Drew says:

                I feel ya MD… I can write longish comments easily but sit down as say to me “you’re gonna write a guest post” and my fingers lock up.Report

              • Avatar Major Zed in reply to Michael Drew says:

                @Michale Drew

                Fair is fair; I don’t have any problems with what you are saying.

                exchange that occurred starting here

                Unfortunately your link didn’t come through and I am curious as to what you are referring.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

                MZ –

                Bummer. Let me try it again.

                Try clicking here now.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

                …Still no, it seems.

                One more try:


                …Otherwise cut n’ paste this:


              • Avatar Major Zed in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Awesome discussion. I either missed it entirely or stopped paying attention too early. Thanks.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Wish I could take any credit for it.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Roger says:

        I’m rather in favor of uncivil statements connected to a rebuttal. They’re a good gauge of exactly how teed off you’ve made the other person.
        Occasionally I strap on my steel-toed boots around here, and I’d rather people know it when they’re out of bounds.Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Kim says:

          I, too, am pretty much okay with this being a place where I find out when and why smart people get angry at each other when discussing issues, and also in finding out what language they would like to use if unconstrained by exogenous rules.

          But, again, understand and am okay with it if the rules change.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

      Just want to add: if rules are added, that’s fine. No great amount of skin off my nose. I just don’t think it’s really the problem right now. The problem really just seems to me to be discourteousness of a degree that actually does fall under the current policy.Report

  20. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    With all the comments we’ve had here lately, I think if it was more heated than usual, it would be a bit like standing there while a train rushes by and having the person standing next to you say, “Hey did you see that fistfight they were having on the third car of that train?!” That said, I haven’t commented a lot lately, but definitely know what it’s like to write a comment in anger and regret doing so a few hours later, so I’ll try not to do so in the future.Report

  21. Avatar Roger says:

    I have been seriously considering just bailing out on the League. Not because of others, but because of disappointments in my own level of contribution. Based upon this discussion I have decided to stay and attempt to elevate my level of discourse. (“Ah shucks” I hear a few people saying).

    I apologize for my past snarkiness to any and all subject to it or observing it and will endeavor to step up my professionalism. I wrote out some resolutions which I will try to play by going forward.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Roger says:

      mrfl. i wish I was as coherent as you are most days.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Roger says:

      Roger, I don’t think you owe us any improvement. You have been primarily concerned with civility of late; it seems to me you’ve been truly and understandably stung by some comments, and I’ve felt bad for you, with reason in my view. We clearly needed a nudge in that direction. Fruthermore, it’s humanized you to me.

      And if anything, I think that’s part of what gone on with your experience here. You have no obligation not to have been like this, but if I may, I’d like to suggest that your arguments come off as a little doctrinaire and robotic at times – like you’re reading from a catechism. We had another libertarian whose comments often struck me the same way who doesn’t comment much any more. I early on identified that my problem with that was strictly my problem. But part of how you are received here by liberals I think has to do with the sense early on that, whatever they said, you were going to respond to them with a pre-determined set of talking points. that changed eventually, but it quickly changed to an approach where you were dealing with commenters as commenters – how they were comporting themselves as commenters, rather than direct engagement with *just* their arguments. (You also recently took to insisting on responses to sets of choices that only you saw as the universe of options, which in my view never advances dialogue.)

      I realize that all contradicts my injunction not to assess commenters as commenters. But the main point (that got covered up) was meant as a response to your feeling of not being up to snuff in some way: to say that I *don’t* think you need to improve. I think you argue well, and generally fairly, for your viewpoint. It’s just that you do have that knack for pushing liberals’ buttons (and feeding into their stereotypes about libertarians), and if you want that to change, then you need to change that.

      Please understand that I mean this comment more as reassurance and compliment, and an encouragement to stay, than as criticism. You’re good. You make this place better not worse.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Awesome feedback Michael. I agree completely. The problems are that a) I am sloppy and insensitive at times (a trait not uncommon in those of my libertarian persuasion, btw), and b) I have intentionally tried to stir the pot too many times, and c) I have focused way too much on trying to point out how others are different, rather than how I think. People resent the former for good reasons.

        Instant KarmaReport

        • Avatar Glyph in reply to Roger says:

          Roger, your re-worked b&w grainy gravatar keeps making me think I need to get on the roof and fiddle with my antenna whenever I see it.Report

          • Avatar Roger in reply to Glyph says:

            Yeah, I was trying a B&W version of my Dexter painting, but it has insufficient contrast. I will try something new. Kittens are always nice.Report

            • Avatar Glyph in reply to Roger says:

              Dude, I was just joking…I immediately recognized your Dexter painting, but it looked “snowy” now. I had to restrain myself from banging my monitor on the side to improve the picture.

              All this indicates my age.

              Antennas? Snowy? What the heck?Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Awesome. It kind of bummed me out to read that you were feeling down about your contributions at all. I sense a really constructive attitude in you that gets frustrated by a approach that’s not quite calibrated for this community as it exists now. I think you would have been really happy here in the very early days.Report

        • Avatar Roger in reply to Michael Drew says:

          What was different in the early days? When I read old posts I was surprised that some of those that now only leave quick one liners used to leave extensive arguments.Report

          • Avatar Murali in reply to Roger says:

            Enthusiasm. It used to be in the early days, that it seemed that if you just presented as complete and thorough an argument as you could, you would be able to convinc everyone of your points. We were all younger back then, we were more naive and idealistic. Then reality and for some, real life hit. It became tiring and repetitive and even somewhat formulaic to constantly lay down term paper length responses over and over and over again every time someone was wrong on the internet.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Roger says:

            Well, that right there would be one thing. See Jaybird’s account of the years-old history in a lot of today’s arguments. Ideally, we’d stay fresh to these discussions since we usually discuss really basic stuff that lies at the base of more topical disputes. But we don’t; now a lot of that is done in shorthand, and frankly with dismissive tone for people who commit the sin of openly expressing where they come from as a starting point, if it’s not really solidly thought through at a theoretical level.

            Also, there were just fewer of everyone – commenters, contributors, writers. The place was still being built, and I think a more from-scratch approach like the one you bring would have contributed a lot to clarity of early discussions. And responses would have been less snarky because everyone was trying to build the place with a similar kind of constructiveness that you still have.

            And lastly, the argumentation just matched yours better. Things were stated more formally and more from a pose of neutrality (even though people of course weren’t really neutral). (In fact my first comment was a completely unfair expression of exasperation with not being able to tell where anyone was coming from at first blush just as a matter of background thinking on questions. It all started from this kind of blank slate, so that you honestly couldn’t tell without reading back who was a libertarian, who was a liberal ,etc. In retrospect have no idea why that bothered me.) The way you were when you first came would have matched that really well; subsequently you’ve sort of embraced more of a “team” approach, but one hardly can avoid going in that direction here these days, or at least it takes some doing.

            That’s about as well as I can do on that.Report

  22. Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

    Roger, if I can offer any constructive advice it’s just this: when commenting, focus less on the person you’re responding to and more on the unseen, unheard non-commentor that might be reading the comment thread.

    I find that the comments that I’m least proud of are the ones I go back and re-read (when I’m trying to figure out how an exchange went all wrong), and it’s usually because I was talking to someone specifically instead of the community in general.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

      This. For everyone, not just Roger. Resist the temptation to assess commenters as commenters at all. Leave that to editors (who don’t want to do it until the have to) and deal with arguments. If you stick around long enough, you will develop relationships where they are possible and fruitful and positive. And that’s great. And where it’s not possible, you just keep dealing with people’s arguments.Report

    • Avatar Roger in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

      Great advice, Patrick and Michael. The ones I am least proud of are those where I make an ass of myself. ;^)

      The value of the League is having a conversation with such a diverse crew. I have learned a lot from others (you’ve changed my entire outlook on voter fraud and RTW, for example). The hardest thing to learn though is how to talk to others that don’t already agree in a coherent and respectful way.Report